|Is this why Christ died hanging on the cross or is this|
about an ego having lost all touch with reality?
It was the story of Samuel and the Israelites squabbling over a monarchy. You know the story. (Or, if you don’t, you can find it in 1 Samuel, chapter 8.) The people of Israel decide that they want a king like other nations. The people had decided that God wasn’t quite cutting it as king. He isn’t visible enough in times of war. They want the trappings of an earthly king. Samuel warns them of the price: Kings require taxes and they live in palaces with servants. Daughters will have to become ointment makers and cooks; sons will have to be footmen and soldiers. The people are going to have to shell out to keep a king in style—you know: palaces, crowns, liveried servants, etc.
What struck me was—and this is one of the reasons that I write this blog—why isn’t Christ enough for us? Why do we need Swiss Guards and Nuncios and Vatican dicasteries? Why do we need monsignors in their purples and bishops with their miters, and Eminences and Excelencies, and the kissing of rings and the bending of knees? Now I am not saying that we don’t need the Petrine Ministry and a worthy Servus Servorum Dei to fill it, or that we don’t need Pastors who have the heart of the Good Shepherd to lead the Church. (And by Pastors here I mean bishops.) I believe Christ established a community of his followers and that he commissioned the Twelve (or at least the Eleven who remained faithful) to guide it in faithfulness to the Good News of God’s Kingdom as he preached it. And I am not a strict constructionist of the New Testament. I am amused with some of my Campbellite friends who insist that if there is not an explicit warrant for something in the New Testament you can’t do it. (One friend of mine who is a Church of Christ Pastor makes me laugh when he says that his deacons won’t allow lighted candles on the communion table as there is no warrant for them in the New Testament but that they have no problem flipping on the light switch.) But I do think at times, indeed often, that we Catholics have allowed the human trappings to overshadow and even usurp the precedence of the Divinely ordered mission of the Church. I’m sorry but the preaching of Good News to the Poor, of granting sight to the blind, freedom to captives, and announcing a time of God’s Favor is why we are here not to conduct self-aggrandizing ceremonies that exalt one or another of us over others. Now I know that I have said that I don’t intend to get into theology and that I want to stick right to history and that when you start talking about Christ and his intentions for his disciples you cross the line from history into theology and I know I have crossed that line, but don’t even tell me theologically that the Grace of God is given us for pompous ceremonial that may have been fitting for medieval princes but is totally out of place in a world where more than half the population has no or insufficient access to safe water, where millions of children have been orphaned by AIDS, where famine is rampant, and where 5% of the population controls 90% of the resources. Far from being the light of the world, we run the risk of being a scandal when we are more concerned about the trappings of office than the mission given us by our Savior. So history and theology meet where justice and peace kiss and history can help theology sort out what is essential and what is charade.